tv Justice Kagan on the Supreme Court CSPAN December 2, 2013 12:30am-1:36am EST
duty. >> the prime minister will be aware that the mayor of london, boris johnson, proposes to close nearly every single ticket office on the london underground network, with more than 700 jobs being lost. does the prime minister believe that that is the way to raise living standards for ordinary londoners? >> the best way to help londoners is to ensure that we have a safe and affordable tube, and that we use modern technology to deliver that. the conversation that the hon. lady needs to have is with the trade union that has done so much damage to our underground. we ought to have no-strike deals on the underground and permanent systems that provide a good service. >> earlier this week in brighton, i was tested for hiv.
this sunday is world aids day. in view of the fact that one in five people with hiv in this country does not know that they have it, does the prime minister agree that regular testing is to be encouraged? >> i pay tribute to my hon. friend, all hon. members across the house and everyone in politics who campaign so persistently and consistently on this issue. it is vital that we improve the livelihoods of people who have hiv and aids in the uk, but it is also vital that we continue working internationally, including through our aid budget, to tackle hiv and aids around the world. we can be proud of the money that we have put into things such as the global fund and of the fact that this country has achieved the target of 0.7% of gross national income, when many other countries have broken their promises. >> the prime minister is very keen to encourage energy users
to switch providers to get the best tariff. why has it been so difficult over the past three years to switch mobile phone providers? >> across all the utilities, we want it to be easier for people to switch. we have done that on banks. it is now easier to switch bank accounts because of the hard work of the chancellor of the exchequer. it is now easier to switch energy providers because of the excellent work of the secretary of state for energy and climate change. it ought to be easier to switch with other utilities, that is an important bit of work that we are doing. >> the number of apprenticeships in cornwall has doubled since 2010, which is helping to create a stronger economy and a fairer society. will the prime minister meet me and a delegation of young people from cornwall to see how we can further promote these very worthwhile schemes? >> i am delighted with the news about the number of apprenticeships in cornwall. the government have made a major financial commitment to funding apprenticeships. that is making a difference, but there is far further to go in tackling youth unemployment and worklessness among people between the ages of 16 and 24.
i am always happy to meet with him, perhaps a suitable moment might be when i am in cornwall. >> house prices are going up at a time when real wages are going down. does the prime minister accept that when interest rates go up after the election, it will detonate a sub-prime debt crisis of his making? >> the greatest danger in terms of interest rates would be to have a government who believed in more borrowing, more spending, and more taxing. that is what would drive up interest rates, that is what would hit the cost of living and that is what every family in this country should dread. >> order. >> you're been watching prime minister's questions. question time airs on c-span2 every wednesday. again on sunday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern on c-span.
you can watch anytime at c- span.org. >> a conversation with supreme court justice elena kagan about the inner workings of the supreme court. after that, a discussion of the constitution and the rule of justice with supreme court justice clarence thomas. then, the future of the republican party is seen by strategist anna navarro. >> next, supreme court justice elena kagan discussing the working of the u.s. supreme court at the university of alabama law school. >> i'm having to get used to that title.
we appreciate your service in this role. i join inand welcoming justice kagan to the university of alabama. we are honored by your presence. i want to give you a few vital statistics about our speaker. she u.s.-born in new york city. she received her a.b. from princeton. she went to oxford where she was awarded a masters of philosophy. then a jd from harvard law school. on r law school she clerked the united states court of appeals for the d c circuit under justice marshall. she practiced for a while and washington d.c. and then became a law professor at the university of chicago. serve infrom there to
president clinton's administration in several roles and then she went back to teaching at harvard and was subsequently named as dean of , first femalehool dean of the law school there. in 2000 nine, president obama nominated her for solicitor general of the united states and she served in that office for a asr and was then nominated an associate justice of the supreme court. 2010ook that position in of filled the vacancy justice john paul stevens who, after his retirement, was our last lecture here at the law school. those are the vital statistics.
i want to tell you something personal about her and i brought this along so i could read it. this year in time, she was named as one of their most -- 100 most influential people in the world. read to you what they had to say about our speaker today. "elena kagan the persuader. a lot of people like to talk about the swing court but every supreme court justice has one vote to cast and eight colleagues. what makes a justice particularly influential is the ability to persuade the others to agree and that depends on the effectiveness of the justices reasoning. in that respect, elena kagan has what it takes to be a highly influential supreme court justice. she has demonstrated herself to be an incisive legal thinker, both in her written opinions and in her questions from the bench. -- she is also an
excellent communicator with the kind of crisp and direct style that will make her persuasive, not only among her colleagues, -- these traits will make justice kagan an important voice on the court for decades to come. " it is our pleasure to introduce to you and in conversation later that we will be having, justice elena kagan. [applause] >> can i thank everybody first? anything you everythin like. >> i want to thank the judge for that warm and gracious introduction. i hope little bit
of it is true. whole lawnk the school, really, for inviting me here and to the judge for endowing this lecture series. any dinner last night, i don't exactly know how to sit in this chair. [laughter] saying at a dinner last night that when i became a justice i got a letter from said helbritton that had endowed a series at the alabama law school and the following people had participated. bandit named all of my colleagues or all but one and then some of the former supreme court justices and some of the world's greatest non-american supreme court justices. and i have lunch together and we talk about what we talk about. i had this letter and i said to this what is it about
lecture series that everyone goes down there for? every law school has a lecture series. but they don't get every supreme court justice. my colleagues said this is a command performance. [laughter] i said what makes it a command performance? i got two answers. one is, judge allbritton, you said something about persuasiveness up there. colleagues was judge allbritton is a very persuasive man. [laughter] wassecond thing they said people just have such a good time when they go. then they come back and each justice comes here and goes back and tells all his or her colleagues, you have to go down there. so each one of us has gone. just a warmth and hospitality and graciousness that you all
have shown me just in the last 12 hours roofs that all my colleagues are right. i will give you one example. i mentioned that the chief justice justices said to me that he is a little bit disappointed, he had a great time, but there's one thing he hadn't gotten to do and that is go to dreamland. so i mentioned this and he said myt he sought wasn't on schedule, either. i immediately got an offer of ribs to take back with me. and also a little surprise for the chief justice. [laughter] the dean whoo pretends to be a newbie at this business but seems to me a complete professional and you are very lucky to have him. i know from dean's, i was one. so thank you, dean brubaker. judge allbritton
and your entire family and for the whole university for being so gracious. so far, at least. [laughter] >> we will handle the next 40 minutes or so anyway. thank you, justice kagan. kagan say that justice has been one of the more gracious guests we have had as you can already see from our first minutes together. it is a real honor to have you here. think ofpted to listening to judge allbritton's introduction. as you notice all the famous justices -- it reminds me of president kennedy's favorite justice -- dining alone. we would be happy to have anybody with any one of those credentials here for the allbritton lecture. it is amazing to find them all in one person. so thank you, you do is a great honor to be here.
if i may, let me start with a question to sort of tie our law school together with your own experience. a few weeks ago at first-year orientation we had a wonderful presentation by a former alabama ,ttorney general, bill baxley and former u.s. attorney doug jones about their efforts to reopen prosecutions in the 16th street baptist church bombing cases that occurred about 50 years ago. i thought the presentations were inspiring. they were inspiring to me as an old guy. you may also know the author of harperl a mockingbird" lee studied at our school. another former student we are very proud of. i am wondering whether there are fictional or real lawyer stories that have been meaningful to you over the years. >> what a great question. i think what i would do is go
back a lot of years in my life to when i was more the age of the people sitting in this room. i had graduated from law school and i had served one clerkship and then i had the chance to go to the supreme court and serve another clerkship with thurgood marshall. mosts one of the meaningful, most incredible years of my life in a lot of ways very it is a special thing to be a clerk on the supreme court for absolutely anybody. you are there in this building where all of these important cases are decided and you have a sense of the importance of the institution and the small role that you play in it. but it was something above and beyond that to work for justice marshall. justice marshall was then approaching the end of his life. clerkned 80 the year i for him. he had a few more years on the court and a couple years after that. was in a little bit of
rickety health and he was maybe even more so than he had been earlier in his life. stock of what it all meant. his four clerks that year were privileged to sit there in his chambers and listen to him tell his stories about his life. we would go into his chambers everyday or every other day and we were talking about cases and do the typical thing that clerks do with judges and then at a certain point in time we had said all we had to say about slip cases and he would into storytelling mode. he was the greatest storyteller i have ever heard in my life. year of telling stories every day i don't think he ever repeated a single one and he was one of these kinds of, he could
make you cry, he can make you laugh, he could do it all with you. but then in addition to that one had to say he had some awfully good material. because the material of his life so thrilling, inspiring, to think about what law can do, to think about what lawyers can do to advance a society, to make us more just, to make it more equitable for all the people living in it. some of his stories, i think when i went to clerk for him i was more familiar with his appellate work and especially his work at the supreme court. he was a great appellate advocate. -- he won almost all 30 cases of the supreme court. knows howerybody well magnificently he carved the strategy of bringing down the
system of separate but equal and bringing down the system of jim crow and how he had this very clear step by step incremental ,trategy in order to do that understanding that he couldn't do it all at once and understanding how to get a course to move towards and end result a bit at a time and how he hit cases that would allow the naacp to make incremental arguments and the kind of cases that the court was going to accept the legal defense fund was going to win. that, a fair amount about but what i did know was that he was one of the greatest trial attorneys of his time as well. he spent enormous amounts of time crisscrossing especially ,he states of the south representing a wide variety of
people, but mostly in criminal cases and very frequently in capital cases. being subjected to incredible danger himself. he would come to town and it was not at all clear that he was courseo be safe and of the indignities of traveling in a place where you couldn't stay at a hotel and you couldn't eat at a regular restaurant. and then representing black people before all-white juries where it was not clear that anybody had justice in mind. stories that he told of those trips and of those cases, it all came back to me very much this summer. i read a very fine book, and that just one the pulitzer prize
"alled "devil in the grove about one of his capital cases in florida. it is a gripping story. it reads like a whodunit or what is going to happen, but it is also about him and the incredible lawyerly skills he assets also the great that he showed in all of his work. he was a great lawyer and a and iely ethical man guess he is the person -- me n my clerks we were for pretty privileged- four kids who haven't experienced anything in discrimination or hardship and to be exposed to that at that time of my life day was an experience that
changed me forever and that made me think about law and the anyway that iaw hope everybody in this room does. >> that is very interesting insight into your beginning with justice marshall. some of your earliest experience as a lawyer was there in the supreme court and now you are there. -- >> itike to ask you hasn't changed that much. [laughter] >> that is something we would all be interested in. i want to ask you about getting there. i know that through the years in various ways you have seen the and is from the outside were innd that when you
the clinton administration that you were involved and assigned to work some with ruth bader ginsburg in connection with her confirmation hearings. i read a law review article you wrote while you were professor at the university of chicago critiquing a book about the .rocess now you have been through the process yourself and i wondered if you would comment on your feelings about the nomination and confirmation process for getting there. >> sure. time, actually, going through the process. i was a little bit about why, but notwithstanding that i think .he process is broken i think probably everybody
agrees on that and it is hard to see how to fix it. i would tell you about why i had a good time. the part of the process that the public sees is the confirmation the two or three days where the nominee sits in front of the jews she very and answers questions in each of the senators gets a half an hour and goes one by one and starts all over again. that is an extremely important part of the process but it is the tip of the iceberg. before that happens, the nominee says visits with each individual senator. they're called courtesy visits. i did 81 of them. my colleague justice sotomayor did 92 of them. but 81 senators i would go one by one to each of their offices and some of them were just the meet and greets, 10 minutes, it's a good picture, you say hi,
you go your merry way, but others of them were extremely substantive and serious conversations where senators would try to figure out what you are all about and what your approach to law might be in for the most part i enjoyed all those conversations enormously. there are rules about what you can and can't say and it is to figuredifficult out what the boundaries are, so that is a challenge. for the werepart these visits called courtesy visits for a reason. everyone was very gracious, both the people who knew they're going to vote for me and the people who knew they would vote against me. and the relatively few people who are undecided. but i enjoyed them. i enjoyed putting names to faces and seeing what these people were like and conversing with
them. i thought that was pretty much fun. and then you get to the hearings admitlves and i have to to you, maybe it will be obvious after the day, i am a hit of a ham. they sat me down at the table and i was nervous going in but all the lights are on you. it is actually very hot up there . the first day i get my opening statement, because you're on tv you get professionally made up, if you're a woman, you know. my mascara started to run in front of all the lights. we had to notch down the make up the second and third day. feel like you are in the center of things. there are tons of photographers taking pictures of you. underway a person wasd me, senator leahy
first and senator sessions was next. and when i got through those two i thought ok i got this. [laughter] the wordsas though coming out of my mouth made sense. anyway, you are very much in control of the thing. the senators are very polite, they don't interrupt you, they let you say what you want to say. law andalking about maybe someone with their love talking, i don't know. i had a good time. i think that said, senators are very frustrated by the process. ,enators are frustrated because if you basically want to know how you're going to decide -- i don't blame them for wanting to know. how you'ret to know
going to decide that next second amendment case, that next federal case. the difficulty is that the nominee knee is not going to say that. trick certain extent -- to a .ertain extent you can't say it there are ethical boundaries of nominee cannot cross. also there are some things that even if you could say you don't say because as a nominee your goal is to get through the process. it didn't seem to work out all that well for judge work when he about absolutely everything, right? then havesince stopped short of saying what the senators would really like to know. forn't blame the senators being a bit frustrated by that ,tate of affairs. as a result
the senators, and i say this of both parties, both the people are for you and the people who are against you and the people who i think are trying to figure out which is which, maybe least of them, but the people who are for you and against you, it becomes a little bit of a hitter. becomes a little bit of a theater. you are just sitting there and you are the excuse in some ways for both sides, democrats and republicans alike, to do their set nieces and make their speeches. that doesn't seem all that helpful. say, i totally understand
why it has come to that and why senators might feel very frustrated. i don't know the answer to the some people say when we should just get rid of the thing entirely. but i think senators have every right to see who it is that has been nominated and to try to get some sense of who that person is and how that person might approach the job of a judge. make -- >> to follow up on the workings of the political process, one of the things that is different about as compared to some your colleagues on the court, is that instead of coming the normal way to the court, it is through a progression of federal judgeships, you actually worked in a political job. you are one of president
clinton's senior domestic policy advisers. i wonder how that experience has affected your service on the court. , the chiefus have justice worked in the reagan white house and the reagan justice department. justice scalia worked in the reagan justice department and then i worked in the clinton the clintonand justice department. maybe i am missing someone. justice alito worked in the justice department. were the justice and i only people who worked in the white house. i think it is a really different job. that was about four years of my life and was probably the equivalent for my colleagues. it is just a really different job. the great things about lawyerly careers, i know one of the great things about my career is that different points of my life i have one different hats and done different things
and had different responsibilities and obligations. when you are working in the --te house for the president and i worked as a lawyer at a olicy person you're mostly thinking about policy and politics. as a lawyer, you are thinking about lots each -- law too. but always with some politics attached to it. your job in the white house is to mary law and politics. -- marry law and politics. i cannot imagine any judge describing their role that way. it is not to say that law is a science or a mechanical enterprise. you obviously know that it is not. we disagree on many things. sometimes we disagree incredible
ways that follow from -- predictable ways that follow in our own theories of how to interpret the law, constitution, tatutes. all of those are so different in thinking about policy and the way people in the clinical branches do. -- elliptical branches do. that was when i was in my 30s. it was a different role. it was a different set of responsibilities. as the judge, i think about law and what i am doing and what i am called upon to do in a very different way. of all the things in my life that affect what i'm doing now, i honestly think that affected the least. one thing that i bring to the table from those years is an
understanding of how certain political processes work. sometimes it is relevant to particular cases that we may hear because of course, we do review a lot of executive branch decision-making. but other than that, the ways of thinking and the goals of what you are doing are pretty divergent. >> let me expand that a little bit. at the trial level, the theory is that diversity of all kinds on a jury will help in fact finding. jurors from different backgrounds all bring different life experiences to the table. that is what you are talking
about today. there's been some talk in the press and other places about the lack of that kind of diversity on the court. is there any room for a theory that more diversity on the supreme court would be good in legal decision-making, as opposed to fact finding? >> i do think -- i would like to be a might -- a more diverse ourt in some ways. the way in which i think you are very polite not to say so, but the way in which the court is not diverse is that this court is a very coastal and urban and elite law school court.
you know, a tremendous number of ife years of the justices on the court have been spent on the sellout line of amtrak. -- acela line of amtrak. t goes from boston to new york to d.c.. it's not there, maybe there is a little bit of west coast. but there's not a lot in between. a few justices grew up in indiana. justice thomas griffin georgia. -- grew up in georgia. but they spent most of their professional lives in washington, d.c.. the rest of us are pretty eastern or california. all of us have gone to the same two law schools basically. it is just one of these weird flukey things that all of us are graduates of harvard nel, --
harvard or yale, except for justice ginsburg who spent one year at columbia. that is crazy to me. it is not a good thing. i would say this, it is not a good thing for me other than that the cases would come out differently if it were more diverse. diversity is good because we are an important institution. there are nine of us stop -- nine of us. when a nine person institution looks more like the country, it has greater credibility. people can identify with it a little better. those pins are important for an institution. i would say the same thing about why it is important that we now have three women. it is a great thing. y colleague, justice ginsburg, she always says, what about nine?
i think it is a really good thing. i look out onto the court room all the time and there are all of the school children who come in, school groups, and i think, it is a great thing that young girls and young boys are seeing me and justice ginsburg and justice soto mayor and none of us are shrinking violets. they are watching us and the fact that we contribute in the exact same way as our male colleagues do. hat is terrific. i think it would be good if we were diverse in some other ways that i mentioned for the same exact reason. but i do not think it means all -- makes all that much difference in the conference room. when the doors are closed and we re deciding cases. am not going to say that it
never makes a difference because i do think there are particular kind of cases where somebody might have a very strong intuition about the way the world works that comes out in the decision-making process. i think in particular about a case a few years ago when i was a solicitor general and justice ginsburg was the only woman on the court then. i think she had a very different reaction to a case involving the strip search of a 13-year-old girl. there are occasional cases like that. they are rare. i think when a door closes and we discussed cases, there are three women there. it does not make difference to either the women or the six men. i think that is true most of the time. it is not to make the decision-making process different. it is because we are a public institution. we are supposed to be the eyes of the country.
it is important that the entire country can see -- to be able to identify a little bit more. >> you referred a couple of imes in those remarks to the decision-making process. that process is a deep mystery to the outside world. what can you tell us about it? not only how works, but for example, how you observe your colleagues changing their minds about cases along the way? what makes the difference? > people do think hard along the way. because they think hard along the way, sometimes they change their minds along the way. the first thing that you get in a case is the brief. the briefs are the first and
most important thing. especially in terms of one's thinking about the case. if you are doing appellate work, i suspected as much the ame. getting your argument down in the most persuasive form. in the written materials that you give to the court, it matters the most. that is where you are really going to start thinking about a case and the arguments on each side. that is the most important thing. nd we have oral arguments.
you can lose a case in oral argument, you can win a case in oral argument, but rarely both. ometimes i will go into oral arguments and have a kind of leaned, and the oral argument will confirm that or it will make the drawback and say, maybe i am wrong. maybe i need to look at this more. maybe i need to figure this out again. the oral arguments can make a difference. they are also important to the supreme court for his strange reason. it is the first time that the justices top of each other -- talk with each other. in some court, especially overseas, the justices talked efore they hear arguments. we do not. art of the argument is ommunicating with your colleagues about what you think
about a case. in conference, when we sit down together for the first time, we follow a pretty stylized ormat. we go round the table and everybody speaks once before anybody can speak twice. if you are like me, eight people will have spoken and cast a vote by the time i get to say anything. that means if i wanted to think about a certain thing, if i have what i think is a bit of an unusual take on a case, a take that has not been presented so much in the brief, i will try to use oral arguments to preview it, if you will. i am trying to get people to think about it. many of my colleagues do the exact same thing. sometimes you feel sorry for these lawyers. they are standing on the podium. it is kind of an excuse for us to be having a conversation with each other. you can tell that the lawyer is a little bit like, i have some oints to make too. where like, too bad. >> i think some law students can
identify that. >> then we have conference a couple days after oral arguments. i like that. a lot of appellate courts around the country, people go into conference right after the arguments. i like the fact that we have a couple of days where we talk about it with the clerks, i talk about it in one-on-one conversations, and we mull it over. it works for me. i mull it over, what i have heard and what i am hinking. then we go into the conference room and it is just the nine of us. we have no clerks, no administrators. the chief justice starts things off. he brings the case and remind everybody, here are the issues and here is what we need to decide. he is the first person to state his views.
he casts a preliminary vote. and it goes around the table. in seniority order. so i always speak night. it is actually better than speaking eight, 7, 6. it has a certain drama to it sometimes. and then sometimes, but not always, free-form conversation breaks out. my first conference, i thought it was the weirdest thing. i came in and there was an important case. it was the kind of case it would appear on the front pages of the ewspapers. the second case, nobody -- not a newspaper in america would write about this case. t was a very complicated procedural case. the first case, we went around the table and each of us that his or her fees. -- peace -- piece.
it was one of those 5-4 cases. it was 5-4 and the chief justice said, next case. we did not say anything lse. the next phase, we went around and it was really hard i complicated and nobody knew what was going on. then we went around the general conversation broke out. e talked about this case for a good 40 minutes. i went down and i thought, this is the strangest thing i have ever seen. this really important case, 10 minutes. the kids that nobody has ever heard of, 40 minutes. what is that about? as i thought about it and as i
have experienced more cases, i realize that there are some cases where you can talk until you are blue in the face. in the end, people might think it is interesting. they might think that you did the best you could for that argument. but they are not going to be persuaded. there are cases where we are not going to persuade each other. there are two different ways of looking at this, or three. in the end, talking probably will not change that. there are other cases where talking can change a lot. people can start thinking about hings in an entirely new way. i love those cases. i love cases where people do not have strong priors. they are really susceptible to arguments and persuasion. like the feeling of being persuaded myself. i like the feeling of persuading others. it is not true of every case. there are some cases where we just disagree. we know that we disagree. but there are lots of others and some are less important.
some are more important. we are really trying hard to think about real issues, complicated issues, issues that people have not thought about efore. issues that people do not have going into -- do not have convictions on. i love that process. >> these law students are reading the final results. from reading some of the opinions and some of the language, some of them and some people may have the idea that there's a lot of animosity among the justices. what has been your experience on a personal level? >> this is the thing that surprises people the most. you are exactly right, judge. sometimes you read a majority and then you read a dissent and you think, wow these people must hate each other. they are when things at each
other. they are close to calling each other names. the truth of the matter is, we like each other quite a lot. i think it is a testament to the institution and the way it works, particularly with the chief justice, that the institution runs his wife. we actually a very collegial court. we have very firm friendships. enduring friendships. possibly the best friend, the best friendship on the court, is between two people who no one usually put in the same category. it is between justice scalia and ruth ginsburg. they've been friends for decades and decades. they share a new year's eve dinner together every year for all that time. they really love each other. think that is -- i think we
all like each other and i think we all have enormous respect for each other. i think we all believe in each other positive faith -- each other's good faith most important. that is not easy every day. it is not easy on cases that you really care about. you think that there is an obvious right answer to hem. you have to listen to a colleague who has come out in the exact opposite way. you must not entertain the possibility -- it is hard sometimes to realize that people, two people can approach the same problem in other good faith and diverge so dramatically. i think all of us know that it
is true. one of the important lessons of life in the law and something that the court really depends upon his understanding that. i think we do. i think there've been historic periods -- i think there've been the store periods where that is not true. here's been disliked and isrespect. there've been pathological hatreds on the court. i read a book by a former colleague of mine called "scorpions." it is a fascinating book. it is about four supreme court justices, all giant figures, who were all appointed by the same president. they were all appointed in some
respect to do the same thing, which was to save the new deal. they were frequent roosevelt's appointments. a justice from alabama, justice jackson, justice douglas, they were all appointed by one president within the space of a few years. it was a particular thing that he hoped his justices would do. ut then it turned out that hese justices were serving years and years and years and different cases come before them that have nothing to do with the reasons that franklin roosevelt appointed them. they go in all kinds of different directions. they develop all kinds of different theories about how to interpret the constitution. in the case of those four, they develop real animosity between hemselves. it was justice frankfurter who said about justice douglas that e was the second most evil man he had met his life. leading everyone to think, who
was the first? but i'm really happy to say, i am really happy to say that this court is nothing like that. it was really a joy to come into the institution as a newbie, a junior justice, as my colleagues often are my main -- often remind me i do have an example in front of me. the chief justice really sets the tone for the institution. that is a great thing. but you mentioned justice scalia. i had her stand that you have a friendship with justice scalia as well. like i have. - >> i have. i knew justice scalia before he came on the court. he is a total crack up. i love the guy. he is such a good guy, so
generous, so warmhearted, i love spending time with him. he did me a big favor. if you don't mind, i am going to tell the story. this goes back to your first question about the confirmation process. when you go through the confirmation process now, at least if you go through the way i go through it, there is the nominee of a democratic president and 71 if you characterized by demographics, i think they would say that i am a jewish woman from new york city. am not known to be -- not known to have particularly strong feelings about guns maybe. when i went to all of these courtesy visits, the question i was asked most was not about abortion or religion or anything else. the question i get asked most was my views on guns. nobody can really say, how are
you going to rule in this case, how are you going to rule in that case. instead they would ask me questions that were designed to figure out who i was and what i was. a lot of people, democrats republicans, both, they would sit me down in the chair and say, did you ever hide? -- hunt? i would say to myself, that is not really what we did growing up in york city. they would say, did you have friends who had -- hunt? have you ever shot a gun? have you ever held a gun? all of my answers to these questions were in their view, athetic. i was talking to one of the senators from idaho and he goes through these questions. he says amy, this is really important to me. it is important to make the joints. it is important that you understand how important the gun culture is in my state. there is a lot of fear about the
way you might think about second amendment issues. you may not be for millie or with -- familiar with this set of things. i appreciated that. i fed him, senator, i tell you, i am the person i am. have had the experiences that i have had. if you want to invite me hunting, i would be delighted to go. this look of abject horror came over his face. do i have to go hunting with her? i realize maybe i had crossed a ittle bit of a line. i said, i will tell you what senator, if i am lucky enough to be confirmed, i will ask justice scalia, who i need to be a great hunter, to take me hunting. when i was confirmed, i went to ustice scalia and i told him
this whole story. he thought it was hilarious. he said, we are on it. the first thing he did is that he took me to the gun club. we shot clay pigeons and he gave me lessons about gun safety. then he started taking me out -- firstly schappert together. we've done this multiple times. probably five or six times and we are going in a few weeks. t the end of, i guess it was the end of a few years ago. the end of my first term on the court, he said to me, you have the birds down. we are going after big game. we went up to wyoming together. we spent three days in wyoming and east about -- each of us had a deer license. each of us shot a deer. neither of us on antelope. he think that was a failure of the trip. he thought that we could've have shot gears in his backyard. -- b gears in his backyard -- the deers in his backyard. i enjoyed it i shot a deer.
i have a great printable justice calia that i value highly. if i tell you that i go to the opera with justice ginsburg, you would probably not be as interested in that. but i do that too. >> let me follow up a little bit n maybe what is a more process oriented version of a similar question. i found that it is wonderful to be a justice on the supreme court terms of personal relationships full -- personal relationships. it is obviously a group of folks that he's here those stories and it is very curdling. but you do disagree with each other.
you do disagree vehemently at times. when is it appropriate to write a dissent? after you've lost once, that they justice have an obligation to admit defeat and go on? how does that work in your mind? like i think dissenting opinions play an important role in the court. that is not to say that i do not value consensus. to the extent that we can achieve consensus, i think we should try hard to do so. i very much admire the chief justice's efforts in that regard. i hope that i am a willing participant in that effort. i think the absolute worst thing on the court is when the splinter and when there is not even a majority.
when there is one of these four people say one thing, three people say one thing, two people say another thing. that is the worst thing. these poor lower court judges do not know what to make of what we have said. obviously, lawyers as well. that is the thing that i think is most important. that we try to come together at least to get a clear majority. sometimes that is not possible. i think a lot of effort should be expended on that. once you're beyond that, -- there is a majority. are you going to descend from it -- dissent from it? if the majority can practice ruling narrowly enough, so that a big division or disagreement are not implicated, that is a tricky thing. we should try to do that. sometimes it is not going to be possible. there are some issues that you can narrow all you want. we are still going to disagree. and then a dissent is appropriate.
there are different kinds of -- dissents. summary matter of condition, i have to be right am. there are cases we do that are not so important. there will nevertheless be a dissent. you say, what is the deal there. in a case about the meaning of a particular statute. it is just an honest disagreement about what these words on the page mean and whether maybe it is a disagreement that is based on ideological differences about statutory interpretation. maybe it is just a different based on how you read it -- a certain provision which are often very collocated. you will see a dissent think what is the purpose of that dissent? and that case, it is not your writing for the ages. you are not writing in the hopes
that the court will change his mind or anything like that. you are writing that it is a complicated thing and both sides presented arguments. both sides of work very hard on that. the fact that different people can look at the same words and read in two different ways. in some respects, that is an honest thing to say. this is not a 9-0 case. it is not a slamdunk. the lawyers that were presenting on the other side were not making fallacious arguments. they may have had a point. you can honestly express what the entire court things about a case. sometimes there is also a dissent, and it is not a dissent that you take with you to the grave. oh, i said these words meant x -- sticking with that for all time. here are other cases which are
more matters of strong conviction where you really hope that what the dissent will be is a kind of marker. it is a marker that says, i disagree with this and i think it is important that the court go no further down this very wrong road. and potentially, where you say, i disagree with this and it will be a good day if the court hanges its mind. here have been extremely important dissents in american legal history. they have become majority opinion.
in most obvious example is that our entire first amendment tradition started out as a issent of all over wendell holmes -- all over wendell holmes -- oliver wendell holmes and louis brandeis over what the first amendment all about. not every dissent will be like that. maybe one design your entire life will be like that. if you are lucky. i think there are dissents were you are saying, this is the wrong road. they're going to be other cases that will involve other issues. i'm telling you why this is the wrong approach to this entire line of cases. in terms of -- president is very important of course. usually, you need a lot more precedent to overrule a case. if you could overrule a case every time you thought it was wrong, there would not be that much to precedent. it is important to a functioning legal system. it usually means other things. it is unworkable or the legs have been cut out from under it.
it is inconsistent with a whole pack of other presidents. -- presidents -- precedents. it is rare to a justice will ay, we got it wrong. the fact you've descended in a case does not mean that you would reverse the case. it is the exact that if the exact same case came before you. it usually it is not the exact same case that comes before you. it is a case that is related, a little bit the same, a little bit different. there is a pretty important arker for a approach -- an approach for how to think about those cases. >> well, our our together -- our hour together is that all too quickly. i will give you a chance for one last word you would like to have one.
let me just say -- >> no, no, no. it is your show. >> somehow i don't feel that way. >> let's again express our deep thanks to you for spending his time with us today. what a wonderful opportunity for ll of us to hear from you. one of the things that is always fascinating in the court is that we have a sense of who the justices are and what they are like and what they are nterested in old stop -- interested in. you gave some tremendously interesting descriptions of how the court works. we cannot get anywhere else.
we are so grateful that you would take your time to be with us. welcome to alabama. if you ever want to come back and hunt deer were birds, i'm sure there are any number of people here who can help you do that. >> i also want to thank you and your family for making this occasion possible. i do think all of our guests for being with us today. thank you very much. >> thank you very much. again i want to thank everybody here and to thank you judge. know how important law school is and how generosity like yours can make it -- i'm very appreciative of what you have done for the university of alabama law school. i'm sure they tell you this all the time, but to hear from another dean, gifts like yours and support like yours make an enormous difference to a place like this. thank you. >> thank you very much. you certainly honored us with your presence. i enjoyed the conver